Photo Credit J. Scott Bovitz
I find it increasingly startling that most often our default is to feel guilty, unworthy, unloved, misunderstood and lacking, and no matter how much or how often we are told otherwise, unless we feel it ourselves in a genuine way, we will retreat back into the familiar prison of our thoughts, often in self-imposed penance, never mind that the door to our cage is wide open.
Sometimes this kind of thinking pervades our thoughts for long periods of time, or sometimes we might have a long run without it. Most of the time I find it sneaks up on us with stealth, attacking when we least expect it.
I've also noticed when we are succumbing to this default programming we are often finding others lacking as well.
From my earliest moments, I've felt a deep-seated responsibility to make this world a better place, to treat people with loving kindness, to help those who are suffering. So, it was with some dismay when I realized that in helping to change the world, I would have to start with me. Yes, despite all of my good intentions, I was at war much of the time--at the mercy of my very own fear, often appearing as anger and blame.
Can we embody a saint and a monster at the same time and not feel guilty? Not in my experience.
I am learning, however, to see that our apparent contradictions serve to open our hearts, when we are finally tired enough of seeing things the same old way. When we decide to embrace all of ourselves, our hearts become stronger, and we discover a vibrant new world where our voice is our own, our thoughts are our own, and our steps in this world, no matter how clumsy, are our own. Yes, and all of our mistakes too. And they only help us to love more, to open more, and to ASK FOR MORE!
These days when I find myself wanting to change myself or others, I question it, and I notice that every time that I feel someone else is somehow not enough, I have some variation of the same issue activated in me. I see how my experience always mirrors what I would like to change in another.
On a basic level, I like to illustrate this with my girls:
You are mean! one will say to the other,
and then I'll reply,
You are mean saying that she is mean,
(and then we play a game of catch),
You are mean saying that I am mean saying that she is mean.
You are mean saying that I am mean saying that you are mean saying that she is mean.
You are mean saying that I am mean saying that you are mean saying that I am mean saying that she is mean.
Usually we get all tied up about then and can't help but laugh, but we all get the point that there really is no neutral response, except none at all. Any judgement is judgement.
This week I've been spending time with my parents. As aging parents do, they have a few aches and pains. This stirs up a lot that could be construed as judgement in an observing child.
Since I recently struggled with a shoulder injury, and worked it out within a couple of weeks with my yoga regime, I found myself advocating yoga passionately to my mother.
Mostly, she gave me a glazed over look, perhaps weighing the possibility that I might have a point, but knowing that on some level that she would need to find what works for her, in her time. And, of course, she must recognize that my encouragement comes from love, but it also comes from fear.
Yes, I'll own that.
And now the reflection in the mirror: I, as much as anyone, know what it is like to struggle against my body-- its, well, overabundance, its perceived limited capacity, its sicknesses, its aches and pains, its aging.
I also know that any breakthroughs with my body have never come from listening to someone give me the magic recipe. They have always come from a readiness within myself to take small steps to adopt healthier habits, for no other reason than that they feel better. Not because I should. Yes, not because I should. Shoulds have never worked for me, because their drive comes from fear, from a feeling of being broken and needing to be fixed.
So, last night I had this very enlightening dream where I was with a group of people, and my mom was there. I was trying to convince her of the benefits of yoga, and I was asking everyone there to raise their hands if they had had their aches and pains cured from yoga. I watched everyone raise their hands. Then I looked back at my mom to make sure she had seen the consensus, when what do you know? she had transformed into my yoga teacher!!!WHOA! I love when my dreams trip me out like that!
To me, this was so significant, because I forgot that I could see my loving parents as whole, even in their aging. Seeing my mom as my mother-turned-yoga-teacher was hugely symbolic and a beautiful reminder that I was preaching to the choir.
I forgot that without fear in the way, we are all whole. We all have the tools within us to work in our unique places in life. Who am I to take away the aches and pains of my parents? It sounds silly, but maybe it would rob them of valuable experience.
If yoga appears on their radar, it will be because it will become something natural and beneficial for them, at the right time--and they will excel at it, because of this. And I could very well find my mother as my yoga teacher!
I love that I can practice seeing wholeness, that it can be shown to me in others, so that I might remember it in myself. I love that it doesn't take much to break down the walls and let the love in. I love that I can talk about my experience with yoga, and send it out there, but with no strings attached--no need to build a yoga coalition.
We are all where we need to be. We are all working in the perfect place at the perfect moment.
And in the place of shoulds is the perfection of wholeness and love, the space to appreciate all the precious parts of us.
Now back to the loving of self:
Part of me felt that I needed to be scolded for not remembering that I could see my parents as whole--but then I remembered that we all need to be lovingly and gently reminded--because our default is fear, our default is brokenness, our default is separation.
It takes a lot of strength and focus to operate out of these bounds.
And don't you know that there is not one of us who wouldn't welcome being loved just as we are? And yet we don't have to do this perfectly!
Today I celebrate little steps in learning how to love unconditionally. I celebrate a knowingness that all of our attempts at love have actually been more far reaching than we can fathom, and have always outweighed our less than loving moments when we've been blinded by fear.